The Doctor (actor Patrick Troughton), companions Polly (actress Annke Wills) and Ben (actor Michael Craze) have gained a third travelling mate in the form of Jamie McCrimmon (actor Frazer Hines) after an adventure in the highlands of Scotland. They arrive back on Earth on a rock beach in the Mediterranean and while the Doctor examines the rocks for the time period, the three companions looking around fall into traps and, eventually, so does the Doctor. They are then pressurised as they are taken deep underground and are about to be sacrificed by the people there when the Doctor recognising the food they are given as a last meal could only have been made by one person, Doctor Zaroff (actor Joseph Furst) could and bluffs a meeting that saves all their lives.
They discover they are in Atlantis and Polly designated to have gills transplanted and Ben and Jamie are sent to the mines. The Doctor arranges some subterfuge for Polly to escape while Ben and Jamie join a couple other people on the verge of escape.
The Doctor also discovers that Zaroff’s plan to raise Atlantis to the surface is not only flawed but likely to destroy the Earth and finds that is the true plan, unknown to the Atlanteans. Although he manages to convince the high priest, he doesn’t dissuade the Atlantis leader and is recaptured by Zaroff.
From here on, we have revolution, treachery and mad scientist all mixed into one. Most of which is spoiler and you aren’t always privy to the Doctor’s plans to beat Zaroff.
For its period, a scene in the third episode was just loaded with extras which was an achievement considering the size of the studio.
The first and last episode relied on telesnaps to tell the story. Unlike ‘The Power Of The Dalek’ which has stacks of photos, with ‘The Underwater Menace’, there are a lot less. I did wonder why they didn’t attempt to animate them so hoping there will be something in the extras on the subject.
In the meantime, the audio commentaries. The first episode has the second part of Toby Hadoke’s interview with Michael Troughton about his father. The first part was in ‘The Ice Warriors’ DVD. Thing that popped up was his intense emotional state Patrick Triughton used when acting, even in rehearsals and his multitude of hobbies. Troughton was also an intense jobbing actor, looking for work rather than waiting by the phone.
For the next two episodes, Toby Hadoke has with him Floor Assistant Quentin Mann, Special Sounds Supervisor Brian Hodgson and acting cast Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines and Catherine Howe. Remarks about the costumes and the small sets at the Riverside Studio. Do you really want to know what the shells were on the couch helmets? I think I even saw an unused one in my house in that time period.
For the fourth episode, we have audio interviews with director Julia Smith and, declining director Hugh David when he discovered the underwater unit of ‘Thunderball’ had 3 million to spend and he had £3000 for underwater effects. After that, some insights from producer Innes Lloyd and the real cream topping with Patrick Troughton where it was considered that the hat would never last 3 years and was quickly dropped. It’s also interesting from my perspective that Troughton lowered his voice by an octave for the Doctor. He was also very conversant with the tales and was correcting his interviewer on several things.
The first extra, ‘A Fishy Tale’, is a 28 minute feature looking at the production and as much as Troughton didn’t like the story, it also looks like it was where he toned down his Doctor’s craziness to the voice of reason against Doctor Zaroff.
The half hour part 2 of ‘The Television Centre Of The Universe’ has compare Yvette Fielding with actors Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson looking around the original BBC Centre before it was closed down in 2013. There is a look around the studios and the BBC Bar with various clips and insights making this an interesting treat.
The ‘Censor Clips’ are the only two clips left from episodes 1 and 4 that the Australians censored out. What a crazy world that these were saved but not the rest of the episodes.
The ‘Photo Gallery’ is short as would be expected and if you ever wondered which story one of the key pictures of Troughton with his stovehat on came from then it’s revealed here.
From an observation point of view, the title ‘The Underwater Menace’ is a bit of misnomer as the Merpeople weren’t the threat. Even the Atlanteans weren’t really and were hardly underwater. An odd curio in the Troughton era but important as he found his form as to what was needed to make the Time Lord his version.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 1 DVD 99 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 3.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD369)
cast: Patrick Troughton, Annke Wills, Michael Craze and Frazer Hines